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    Sakhalin Region

History

Sakhalin Island has a very old history. Geographically, this island, about the size of Scotland, is an offshore extension of the Sikhote-Alin Mountains in the southeast of Russia, though it looks just as much a northern extension of Japan.

The first Japanese settlers came across from Hokkaido in the early 1800s attracted by seas full of fish, whales and seals. The island already had local population (the Nivkhi, Oroki and Ainu peoples). In 1853 the Russian Government claimed Sakhalin as part of its campaign to secure the Amur region.

From the very beginning of Sakhalin colonization not only the Russians and Japanese 'paid attention' to this territory. According to historical data, the first Japanese expedition visited Sakhalin in 1635. By the end of the 18th century English and French explorers showed an interest in Sakhalin and the Kurils. In 1787, ships of the La Perouses expedition conducted their exploration. Jean Francois Galoup de la Perouse thus became the first European to sail into the Tatar Strait. The French sailors explored more than 700 kilometers of Sakhalin coastline and after a short stop the ships under La Perouse's command sailed from the Japanese Sea to the Sea of Okhotsk via the strait between Sakhalin and Hokkaido. This strait today bears his name.

In 1796-1797, the English captain William Robert Broughton explored the coastline of Sakhalin and the Kurils. Broughton sailed eight miles further than La Perouse up to the Tatar Straits and concluded that he was in a gulf surrounded by low, sandy shores. Thus appeared the theory that Sakhalin was a peninsula.

Anton Chekhov, the Russian writer and medical doctor, spent three months on Sakhalin in 1890, where he extensively researched the plight of the prisoners and the native population. The publication of his Sakhalin Island in 1895 highlighted the depravity of the situation in this remote corner of Russia and led to public protests that helped to close the penal colony.

Owing to its remote location, the Island was chosen by the Russian Tsar as a huge penal colony, echoing Britains Botany Bay in Australia. Japan restaked its claim to the Island, seizing it during the Russo-Japanese War and getting to keep the southern part of the Island under the terms of the peace settlement (the Treaty of Portsmouth, 1905). The Treaty was rubbished when, during WWII, the Soviet Union regained control over Sakhalin. The Island became a highly militarized eastern outpost of the Soviet Empire loaded with aircrafts, missiles and guns.

Nowadays, Sakhalin is one of the richest sources of natural gas, coal, uranium and silver, as well as timbers, furs and a fine fishery.

Unfortunately, Sakhalin gained world attention in 1995 when it suffered one of the worst earthquakes in Russian history.

The majority of Sakhalins population lives on the southern half of the Island, centered mainly in the capital city of the region, Yuzhno Sakhalinsk, and the two ports, Kholmsk and Korsakov. The Sakhalin Region also includes the Island of Moneron and the disputed Kuril chain.

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